Recently, the Kadamay (Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap) occupied houses constructed by the National Housing Authority (NHS) for soldiers and policemen.  No one, not a single government agency, whether national of local, has been able to drive the “occupiers” away from the structures they had taken over; in fact, more are coming to do the same.

From distant Australia, Filipino historian Dr. Floro Quibuyen reacted to the “Kadamay occupation” by posting a short video about Marinaleda, a village in Seville, Spain, whose inhabitants, suffering extreme poverty in the 1970’s, began to occupy estates of absentee aristocrats and nobles,and after legal battles were awarded the El Humoso estate.

Could that be something like Rizal’s proposed Filipino colony in Sandakan, North Borneo?  Dr. Quibuyen replied that I had “raised an important issue that requires a new post,” but in the meantime, he wishes to point out that colonial conquest is a form of “land occupation”’ in which the natives “have only two choices, submit (and be exploited) or resist (and die).”  Rizal’s alternative which was to take the dispossessed Calambeños to Sandakan, North Borneo, to start a new life, was rejected by the Spanish colonial administration. Those people of Calamba were cruelly evicted from their homes and  lands they leased from the Dominican Hacienda because they had refused to pay exploitative rental fees. There could be no  alternatives for them.

Dr. Quibuyen continued: “The ‘legal owners’ of Sandakan was the North Borneo Charter Company with headquarters in Hong Kong; Rizal had been negotiating a purchase.  The Company offered Rizal 105,000 acres (a bit more than 2,000 hectares) of virgin land, free of rent for 3 years and the opportunity to purchase at an affordable price. “Wow!” exclaimed Dr. Quibuyen. It could have worked. Unfortunately, the permission was not granted by the colonial authorities. Rizal was then summarily exiled to Dapitan after organizing the La Liga Filipina in July, 1892.

“At about the same time, in 1893,” continued Dr. Quibuyen, “hundreds of socialist-oriented Australians asked their government to allow them to leave for Paraguay where they intended to start a new colony…” instead of waging a war for independence.   Paraguay gave them 187,400 hectares for free! So, the Australian “political refugees” bought a ship, probably second-hand, and sailed off to the Cono Sur (Southern Cone). The colony,  New Australia, thrived for a few years but eventually floundered, “…something that could have been avoided…” concluded Dr. Quibuyen.

Going back to Marinaleda, that tiny municipality in Seville, no bigger than 10 square miles, its population is only 2,748 probably because, in the 1960’s, when Spain started to industrialize, many left in search for greener pastures.  After Generalissimo Franco died in 1975, farm workers in Marinaleda established the Sindicato de Obreros del Campo (Union of Farm Workers) and the struggle for possession of lands began, hardly surprising because of extreme poverty.   The 1980’s decade was a turbulent one what with hunger strikes, incessant demands for employment, and audacious attempts to occupy lands of absentee aristocrats and nobles. “Land to the tillers!” was the battle cry. (Doesn’t that sound all too familiar?)

As the landless occupied estates and government buildings, they were bombarded with legal suits.  However, in 1991, the El Humoso estate of the Duque de Infantado was expropriated and given to the people of Marinaleda. Immediately, a cooperative was established to cultivate the 1,200-hectare estate; in three years food processing plants and an olive oil press were set up.  During the 2008 economic crisis in Spain, Marinaleda could boast that it was the only town enjoying full employment.

Kadamayan occupied government housing units within the urban sprawl of Bulacan, we have yet to hear of groups of farmers taking over the lands they till or used to till but which have been converted into subdivisions.  There are news reports that the Kadamayan organization is supported by the leftists or communists.  Marinaleda is labeled a communist town, but its mayor (and leader for 30 years) affirms that they had to attack the problem of poverty at its roots which is the exploitation of man by man, that is, the capitalist system.  They are not communists, he insists, but they had to invent a system that suits them; he calls it a social democracy.